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4.0 as high as it will go for Greensburg Salem students

| Thursday, March 21, 2013, 7:09 p.m.

A Greensburg Salem committee has recommended against weighting classes when determining grade point averages achieved by district students.

The committee, which has been reviewing grades, class rankings and other issues for several months, voted 14-0 against weighting classes to reward students taking more difficult courses in calculations used to determine students' grade point averages.

One member abstained from the vote.

Kenneth Bissell, coordinator of secondary education, presented the committee's findings during a recent school board meeting. Administrators, teachers and community members served on the panel.

“I don't think that's best for our student body,” Bissell said of weighting classes. “I don't think that's in the right direction.”

District students can only achieve up to a 4.0 grade point average, even if they take more difficult Advanced Placement or honors courses.

The district has not used weighted classes, or applied a formula to grades to help students taking more difficult classes, since the 1990s.

The committee was formed because of a concern some students were avoiding Advanced Placement or honors courses so they could achieve a 4.0 and be recognized during graduation ceremonies.

Changes need to be made to commencement ceremonies “because we do see flaws in that,” Bissell told the board.

The committee reached its conclusion for several reasons, Bissell explained.

He said most colleges and universities ascertain what type of grading system a district uses and admissions officials view grades accordingly.

“Weighted grades don't matter to them. They have to strip it all down,” said teacher Jeremy Lenzi, a committee member.

In addition, colleges and universities assess a student's community activities, said guidance counselor Laura Klipa, another member of the committee.

Students who excel at languages or the arts would be penalized under a system that would give greater weight to math or science courses, Bissell said.

School districts have several ways of weighting classes. When each system was applied to student transcripts, different results were reached, said Rose O'Neill, gifted program teacher.

“Each time it came down to a different score, so there was no equality,” she added.

School directors still have questions.

“I don't see how kids have the incentive to take these classes (Advanced Placement or honors) ... when they're not getting any more credit for it,” Director Lee Kunkle said.

“Being that they are educators, I value their opinion and the fact that they all were in agreement,” president Nat Pantalone said. “I do still, however, think that some items need to be addressed. An example would be scholarships ... .”

“I also would be in favor of offering advanced classes in the arts or other areas of interest,” Pantalone said.

Bob Stiles is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-6622 or